Broccoli, Wilson discuss Bond’s future (a bit)

No Time to Die logo

The Sunday Times, one of press baron Rupert Murdoch’s “respectable” publications (as opposed to his tabloids), published a big story about the saga of No Time to Die. Also, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson talk a bit about the future of the cinematic James Bond.

Wilson, 79, told the newspaper that the way star Daniel Craig has played the part of Bond since 2006’s Casino Royale may carry over in the future.

“Daniel’s made an indelible impression,” Wilson told The Sunday Times. “So it’s inevitable that what he brought will be, in some way, incorporated.”

At the same time, both Wilson and his half-sibling, 61, left themselves some wiggle room.

Concerning potential future Bond actors, Wilson added: “We don’t have any frontrunners — we haven’t even thought about it — but whoever it is will take on the role and adapt the character to their personality. It’s always been the case.”

Here was Broccoli’s take:

“It’s a big decision for us because we’re entering into a partnership with an actor,” the Eon boss told The Sunday Times.

“It’s not like casting a movie when you find the best actor at the time — it’s about resetting the whole template for the movies to come. So it’s not just about what colour hair an actor has and if they fit a certain type — it’s about where you want to take the movies and what you want to say. And we have to make that decision. We’re not going to make it based on polls.”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, has agreed to be acquired by Amazon. Broccoli avoided specifics how that $8.45 billion deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, could affect Bond’s future.

 “The truth is we don’t know,” Broccoli told The Sunday Times. “Until the deal is approved and we are able to get into deep discussions with them we don’t know. At the moment we’re not really any more enlightened about what they want to do and how they see things and how we fit in.”

The article goes over a lot of No Time to Die history many fans are familiar with. For example, the Danny Boyle saga, his departure as director, the hiring of Cary Fukunaga as Boyle’s replacement as director and the uncertainty, for a time, whether Craig would come back for a fifth Bond film. Craig also has a number of quotes where he had f-bombs in his quotes, but they’re cleaned up.

The Sunday Times piece also is full of Bond-related puns such as sub-headlines that read “Never Say Never — Again!” “Doctor Oh No,” “From China with Love,” and “Die? Another Day.”

The story is behind a paywall except for a short preview.

‘Intrigue’ at Amazon, MGM over NYT article, newsletter says

MGM logo

A New York Times story on July 6 has created “intrigue” at Amazon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to a newsletter by a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter.

The article about MGM film chiefs Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy generated some “serious eye-rolling at Amazon Studios this week,” wrote Matthew Belloni.

De Luca runs MGM’s film division and Abdy is his deputy. An excerpt from the newsletter:

I’m told Amazon’s famously press-averse executives were “concerned” about the story, mostly because De Luca and Abdy focused on MGM’s theatrical release plans and their strategy of “original ideas and original authorship,” possibly leaving the impression that there will be internal conflict with what Jeff Bezos cited as the primary reason for buying MGM: To “reimagine and redevelop” the studio’s existing I.P. The story also suggested the town might be rooting for De Luca to wrest control of Amazon’s film output from Jen Salke, the current head of Amazon Studios. 

Amazon last month agreed to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion. But the deal is subject to regulatory approval, a process that may take months.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, in a statement to the Times made clear they’re rooting for De Luca and Abdy.

Referring to Amazon, they said in the statement: “Our hope is that they will empower Mike and Pam to continue to run MGM unencumbered,” MGM is James Bond’s home studio. Eon controls creative matters with Bond while MGM finances the films.

Belloni’s newsletter said the Times story didn’t go over well with Amazon.

“Amazon and the tech companies that run Hollywood these days absolutely hate this posturing crap,” Belloni wrote. MGM and De Luca declined to comment to the newsletter.

No Time to Die, Eon’s 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released Sept. 30 in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S. The Amazon acquisition isn’t likely to be completed before then.

Bond 26 questions: The ‘next iteration’ edition

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

No Time to Die still isn’t out but there has been some news related to Bond 26. Naturally, the blog has questions.

What do you make of recent Broccoli-Wilson comments?

In a July 6 story in The New York Times, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions spoke up in support of two current Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film executives.

“Mike and Pam understand that we are at a critical juncture and that the continuing success of the James Bond series is dependent on us getting the next iteration right and will give us the support we need to do this,” the Eon duo said in a statement of Michael De Luca, chairman of MGM’s Motion PIcture Group, and his deputy, Pamela Abdy. (emphasis added)

Until late September 2020, Broccoli wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that No Time to Die would be Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie. ““It is the fifth and final one that Daniel Craig is going to be doing,” Broccoli said on an episode of the official No Time to Die podcast that would soon go into hiatus because the movie got delayed.

Evidently, Eon likes how De Luca and Abdy are managing MGM’s film unit. But their future is uncertain with Amazon’s pending $8.45 billion acquisition of James Bond’s home studio.

Eon controls creative matters related to the cinema Bond. The Broccoli-Wilson statement looks like a strong suggestion to Amazon to not shake up MGM’s film operation when the Bond franchise is on the verge of another transition and yet another new film Bond.

Did the list of possible new film Bond actors just go down by one?

Over the past few years, entertainment outlets and websites have speculated about who might take over Craig’s shoulder holster. One name that comes up a lot is British actor Henry Cavill.

However, this week, it came out that Cavill will be in a new Matthew Vaughn-directed spy film, Argylle.

Once upon a time, when Cavill was in his early 20s, he tested for Bond. He came in behind Craig.

Since then, Cavill’s ability to anchor film franchises has been a so-so affair. He was in one solo Superman movie and appeared as the Man of Steel in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But his future as Superman looks dicey. Cavill starred in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but that movie didn’t resonate with audiences and no additional U.N.C.L.E. films followed.

Cavill was a supporting player in a Mission: Impossible movie and has starred in a popular streaming show, The Witcher.

The actor is now 38, the same age Craig was when he was cast as Bond. But Cavill’s chances of being cast as Bond may be running out — assuming he ever had a chance in the first place. Would Eon want to cast a Bond actor who has been in two different spy movies? I wouldn’t go banco on that.

Broccoli celebrates birthday amid interesting 007 times

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli today celebrates her 61st birthday. Some birthdays are more memorable than others. As the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions unit, Broccoli’s birthday comes amid a lot of developments.

In recent years, Broccoli — the daughter of Danjaq/Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli — has emerged as the dominant management voice of the James Bond film franchise. And with this year’s birthday, there’s a lot happening on the Bond front.

Amazon has agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio. That means, relatively soon, Broccoli and her colleagues will be dealing with a new studio regime — again. This has occurred quite a bit since 1981 when MGM first acquired United Artists.

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film made by Eon, has been on hold, partly because of creative disagreements (director Danny Boyle’s departure from the project), partly because of a global pandemic.

Bond fans around the globe are hoping No Time to Die finally comes out this fall. Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, have said they want Bond to continue as a big-screen experience, not as a streaming one.

In other words, Barbara Broccoli has a lot on her plate amid her latest birthday.

Broccoli has spent 39 years on a full-time basis in service of the Bond franchise. Even before that, as a teenager, she wrote captions for publicity stills for 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

So happy birthday, Ms. Broccoli. The blog hopes it’s a good one.

An old Hollywood hand opines on Bond amid Amazon deal

Peter Bart’s Twitter avatar (@MrPeterBart)

h/t to David Leigh and Phil Nobile Jr. who brought this to my attention. The post below is my responsibility alone.

Peter Bart is an old Hollywood hand. He has worked both sides of the fence, serving as a studio executive and an entertainment industry trade journalist (he was a long-time editor of Variety). Currently, he writes columns for the Deadline: Hollywood site.

This week, he opted to weigh in on Amazon’s announced deal to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. He told an anecdote or two, drawing on his studio executive experience.

 I was personally introduced to the Bond bonanza in 1983 when a cadre of business affairs executives invaded my office with packets of documents. “When you sign the top document, you’ll be greenlighting the next Bond movie,” instructed the first executive. “The film is titled Octopussy.”

“Is the script as bad as the title?” I asked.

“Probably,” came the reply. “But you’re signing as president of United Artists and we need your signature, not your opinion. A Bond deal is a special deal.”

I promptly signed. I’d heard the legend of how Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, heirs to the Bond dynasty, had constructed a web of contracts that tightly controlled every creative and marketing element of their franchise, and also kept half of the action. I had no stake in intruding in this cozy arrangement.

That’s all very interesting but, as of 1983, Barbara Broccoli had a junior role in the franchise. Her father, Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, still controlled operations. Barbara Broccoli graduated college and went to work on Octopussy in 1982. She got an on-screen credit but it was part of the end titles.

Bart also took a shot at Octopussy star Roger Moore “who, at 55, came across more as a stylish maître d’ than as a master spy.” Bart also wrote that Octopussy “performed torpidly at the worldwide box office,”

The movie finished 1983 with a global box office of $187.5 million. While behind 1981’s For Your Eyes Only ($195.3 million), it was ahead of Never Say Never Again, a competing Bond film starring Sean Connery ($160 million). Those were big numbers four decades ago.

The article by Bart, who turns 89 in July, reflects a broader unease among entertainment types with Amazon and its outgoing CEO, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is planning to spend more time with his rocket company.) Hollywood is being rocked by streaming services (such as Amazon Prime) and is still adjusting to the new reality.

Bart also offered this observation about No Time to Die, the upcoming 25th film in the Eon-produced series:

A $300 million theatrical release, the latest Bond represents a tangle of rights agreements dating back 60 years that reflect the legalistic compromises of the past rather than the slick streamer dealmaking of the present…Some ticket buyers may also see its plot as a creaky reminder of white-bread misogyny.

John Logan provides a peek behind the 007 film curtain

John Logan

John Logan, co-screenwriter of Skyfall and SPECTRE, provided a glimpse behind the James Bond film curtain in a guest essay for The New York Times.

Logan’s article primarily is a plea for Amazon, which last week agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the $8.45 billion deal is subject to regulatory review) to leave the cinematic Bond alone. MGM is Bond’s home studio but it only has half of the Bond franchise, with the Broccoli-Wilson family having the other half.

Where Logan raises the curtain (some) is in describing how the making of Bond films works. One example:

Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are the champions of James Bond. They keep the corporate and commercial pressures outside the door. Nor are they motivated by them. That’s why we don’t have a mammoth Bond Cinematic Universe, with endless anemic variations of 007 sprouting up on TV or streaming or in spinoff movies. The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on.

Logan’s specific example concerns Skyfall where Bond finally meets Silva, the film’s villain.

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms. (Think about Bond first meeting Dr. No or Goldfinger or Blofeld, all classic scenes in the franchise.) Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. 

Now, this is an opinion piece and Logan is certainly entitled to his opinion. But the scribe overlooks a few things.

When Skyfall began production, Mendes declared the movie was not connected to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the first two films starring Daniel Craig.

That didn’t last long. SPECTRE, where Logan was the first screenwriter, decided that Silva wasn’t an independent menace but rather was a part of Quantum/SPECTRE. And SPECTRE, after the fact, opted to make all of the Craig films one big arch.

In short, Bond was following the Marvel Cinematic Universe route that Logan appears to decry in his New York Times essay. And Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have doubled down on Marvel-style continuity that with No Time to Die, directed and co-written by Cary Fukunaga.

What’s more, it’s not like Bond has ignored popular trends prior to this. Albert R. Broccoli (father of Barbara Broccoli and stepfather of Michael G. Wilson) was involved with 007 films that referenced blaxploitation films (Live And Let Die), kung fu movies (The Man With the Golden Gun) and Star Wars and science fiction (Moonraker).

And it was under Cubby Broccoli’s watch that Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan yell (originally recorded for a 1930s Tarzan movie) showed up in Octopussy.

Logan’s essay is worth reading for Bond fans. But it should be read amid a larger context.

007 after Amazon: The more things change…

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Amazon’s agreement to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer this week got a lot of attention. But it’s only now sinking in that, from a James Bond perspective, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Wall Street Journal today published a story about Barbara Broccoli, the boss of Danjaq LLC and its Eon Productions company and her half-brother Michael G. Wilson.

For decades, the Bond franchise has had unusual management. Danjaq/Eon mostly has creative control while the owners of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have the power the purse and finances the films. The latter is not insignificant. But with other franchises, a studio and its owners have total control.

Here’s an excerpt from the Journal’s story.

One executive compared the pair’s decision-making power on Bond to George Lucas’s control over the “Star Wars” universe before he sold Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney—which has mined its characters and story lines for new movies, TV shows and theme-park attractions. Those who have worked with Mr. Wilson and Ms. Broccoli said not to expect a similar evolution: They have rebuffed past offers to explore spinoffs or hand Bond over to a larger entity.

Assuming Amazon secures regulatory approval for its $8.45 billion purchase (including assumption of debt) of MGM, things should stabilize financially. MGM has been a series of financial soap operas for decades, including a 2010 bankruptcy.

But creatively? Perhaps not so much. James Bond films coming out more often? I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on that. Barbara Broccoli has a plate full of non-Bond projects, including plays and small-scale “Indie” style movies.

It still comes down to this: Danjaq/Eon doesn’t finance its films. It needs a studio to supply the funds. The studio/studio owner involved needs Danjaq/Eon to produce a Bond movie. One side cannot move without the other.

From the standpoint of James Bond films, you might not expect a lot of changes soon. Enjoy No Time to Die (hopefully it makes its current fall 2021 release date). Bond 26 may not come out very soon after that.

Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition Part III

An Amazon logo

All those news reports were mostly correct, Amazon said it agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8.45 billion. Naturally, the blog still has questions.

So, does Amazon own MGM right now?

No. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. It can’t close until then.

How long is that going to take?

Likely months. Maybe even the better part of a year. Amazon, an e-commerce giant, has emerged as a big, powerful company. Regulators are likely to take a close look.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s richest men. That alone, guarantees the deal won’t be rubber stamped.

How will this affect the James Bond franchise?

In the short run, not much. Presuming Amazon completes the acquisition, it will want to get to know Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions better. But MGM only controls half of the Bond franchise and Broccoli and Wilson have a lot of control.

It’s possible that Amazon still won’t own MGM this fall when No Time to Die is scheduled to be released.

In the longer run? That remains to be seen. Could Amazon try to buy out the Broccoli-Wilson family? Perhaps. But, if it were me, there’s no point attempting that until you complete the big MGM film.

UPDATE: Broccoli and Wilson sent a statement to Variety: “We are committed to continuing to make James Bond films for the worldwide theatrical audience,”

What’s driving this?

Streaming, in a word. Netflix is concentrating on developing movies and TV shows it owns rather than relying on studios. Some studios, meanwhile, are in streaming as well. For Amazon, getting MGM’s library (much of which is the old United Artists library) as a big programming source for Amazon Prime.

Didn’t MGM dismiss stories it was in talks with Amazon as “speculation in the media”? Were they fibbing?

Could be. MGM wouldn’t be the first company to use this trick while in merger talks.

Will the MGM name survive in the long run?

Despite decades of financial ills, the MGM name and its Leo the Lion logo are still well known. I suspect (assuming the Amazon deal is completed), the MGM logo will survive but it may say “an Amazon company” beneath it.

Anything else?

On May 24, the blog had a post predicting more Jeff Bezos jokes if the Amazon-MGM deal was announced. It has been a tidal wave of Bezos and Amazon puns today.

Amazon agrees to acquire MGM for $8.45B

Amazon logo

Amazon said today it agreed to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, James Bond’s home studio, for $8.45 billion.

“Amazon will help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works,” the tech company/e-commerce giant said in a statement.

MGM’s financial state has been in flux for decades, including a 2010 bankruptcy. Since that bankruptcy, MGM has been controlled by a group of hedge funds.

If the deal is completed — and it’s subject to regulatory approval — MGM may stabilize under Amazon ownership.

Amazon didn’t estimate how long regulatory approval will take. It’s possible such review won’t be completed by Sept. 30, when No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film, is scheduled to be released in the U.K. and Oct. 8 in the U.S.

As things stand now, No Time to Die will be released by United Artists Releasing, a joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures, in the U.S. and by Universal internationally..

For Danjaq LLC and Eon Productions, the deal means adjusting to yet another MGM ownership. The Bond franchise has been linked to the studio since MGM acquired United Artists, 007’s original studio, in 1981.

Bond 25 questions: The Amazon edition Part II

Amazon logo

The momentum for an acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Amazon seems to be accelerating. Or is it? Naturally, the blog has questions.

Have things gotten more serious?

The Wall Street Journal, in a May 24 story, says MGM’s board was briefed on Sunday about negotiations. The financial newspaper also said a deal could occur as early as this week.

On the other hand, the Journal also said there are “no guarantees” the talks will yield a deal. That sounds like talks are indeed serious but not locked down yet.

If Amazon buys MGM, how might it affect James Bond?

Amazon is a financially successful company. That may mean more stability at MGM, Bond’s home studio. MGM bought United Artists (Bond’s original studio) 40 years ago and it has been one bit of drama after. That included a 2010 bankruptcy.

The Journal story made it sound like the basic Bond dynamic won’t change. MGM and Danjaq/Eon (the Broccoli-Wilson family) . MGM and Danjaq/Eon share the franchise but Danjaq/Eon controls the direction.

Of course, never underestimate the power of the purse. Danjaq/Eon relies on MGM to finance Bond films. Amazon buying MGM would mean a new set of executives exercising that power.

Should I worry about this?

You should avoid worrying about things you can’t control. Amazon is a streaming power and is on the lookout for “content” it can control directly. Netflix is doing the same thing with its original movies and TV shows. AT&T decided it wasn’t cut out to be a media power and has agreed to combine WarnerMedia with Discovery.

In other words, it’s like what was once said about Willard Whyte. People are playing monopoly with real buildings — or studios or television channels or whatever.

Anything else we should expect?

Expect a lot more jokes about how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos looks like a James Bond villain. YouTuber Calvin Dyson did so in a May 19 video. The Gizmodo website, in summarizing the Journal story, went for the gag in the headline. (“Jeff Bezos, a Real-Life Bond Villain, May Own James Bond Very Soon”)